Higher vocational education and the matter of equity

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Higher vocational education has been expanding across many countries where it variously includes the European model of two-year ‘short cycle’ higher education sub-bachelor level qualifications provided by universities or colleges (HNC/Ds and Foundation degrees being examples in the UK), applied bachelor degrees in Sweden and Australia, applied baccalaureates at community colleges in the USA and other combinations of higher level vocational and academic programmes including degree apprenticeships. The growth of higher vocational education is usually a response to two distinct policy concerns: on the one hand, policies to increase economic competitiveness and productivity and on the other hand policies to promote social justice and equity as part of the near universal project to widen participation to higher education. This chapter explores how the concept of equity has been understood in research on widening access to higher education through developments that connect vocational or further education with higher education. The aim is to contextualise the country-specific experiences of the growth of higher vocational education presented in this book collection. This chapter builds on the idea that policies and practices contain historical traces and that different assemblages of policies for vocational or further and higher education lead to different spaces for opportunities for different students. This chapter explores literature that considers how vocational education and higher education as systems and/or as institutions have connected in order to expand opportunities to higher education qualifications for those who have not traditionally participated at this level. This chapter is organized in two parts. The first part considers how system expansion, which is often accompanied by increased institutional and vocational and higher education sector differentiation, is understood to affect equity in higher education. Three conceptualisations of equity developed by McCowan (2016) are outlined and discussed in order to set up a frame for reviewing the effects of expansion in more detail in the second part of this chapter. The second part of this chapter then uses McCowan’s (2016) conceptual frame to present and discuss the findings of a recent systematic literature review on widening access to higher education. The studies that will be considered in this chapter are those that highlight policies and practices to enable progression to higher education from vocational education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEquity and Access to High Skills through Higher Vocational Education
EditorsElizabeth Knight, Ann-Marie Bathmaker, Gavin Moodie, Kevin Orr, Susan Webb, Leesa Wheelahan
Place of PublicationCham Switzerland
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages27
ISBN (Electronic)9783030845025
ISBN (Print)9783030845018
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in Adult Education and Lifelong Learning
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISSN (Print)2524-6313
ISSN (Electronic)2524-6321

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